Since its establishment in January 2016, DARe has made a conscious effort to reach out to local enterprises to gain a better understanding of their concerns and put them forward to the relevant agencies to improve the business environment in Brunei.
DARe is a statutory body with the mandate of nurturing and supporting local enterprises from start-up to growth. Working closely with ministries, government and non-government agencies, both locally and abroad, it seeks to foster the growth of business enterprises and boost their GDP contributions. It has taken up a number of initiatives, including a series of dialogues with relevant government bodies as well as special focus group sessions with successful businesses.
DARe has seven key functions and services:
1. To promote growth of Bruneian enterprises
2. To focus on development of specific sectors
3. To provide access to funding for enterprises
4. To facilitate market access
5. To provide capacity development and advisory services
6. To provide industrial space and facilities
7. To operate a business support centre
The board of DARe is driven by the private sector with representatives from various industries. The main goal is to bring the government and the private sector together optimally to meet the needs of the local business community.
The board has 84 per cent private sector representation and is divided into the fields of public sector and GLCs (government-linked companies), banking, shipping/logistics, construction, food, oil and gas, young entrepreneurs, associations, international advisory, consulting and technopreneurs.
The Chairman of DARe is Pehin Datu Singamanteri Colonel (Rtd) Dato Seri Setia (Dr) Awang Haji Mohammad Yasmin bin Haji Umar, the Minister of Energy and Industry at the Prime Minister’s Office, while Dato Paduka Dr Awang Haji Mohd Amin Liew bin Abdullah, the Deputy Minister of Finance, is the Deputy Chairman.
The CEO of DARe is a Bruneian entrepreneur named Soon Loo, who is also on the DARe Board for International Advisory. Soon Loo is Managing Director of Seri Venture Capital, a firm that invests in Bruneian companies that have ambitions of regional expansion. He has been serving on the board of directors of a number of public and private companies in Brunei, China and Singapore.
DARe has the role and responsibility of growing and supporting local enterprises, ensuring the supply of industrial facilities and operating the Business Support Centre. The centre which is at the Design and Technology Building in Anggerek Desa, facilitates all key business-related processes for companies and agencies. It acts as a consolidated front-end to serve customers and provides services relevant to enterprises of all sizes throughout their lifecycle, from starting a business, applying for various permits, getting industrial land, paying taxes and more.
DARe recently expanded its Business Support Centre by opening a new branch in Kuala Belait on the ground floor of the Kuala Belait and Seria Municipal Department building. This centre provides entrepreneurs and businesses a single portal or venue through which they can access and submit business applications for permits, licences and registrations; obtain business advice and information; and learn about and apply for SME programmes, grants and loans.
The IBA is a six-month development and learning programme for SMEs developed after analysing present day issues experienced by local businesses. The initiative hopes to provide a platform where enterprises can increase their skills and knowledge in starting, running and expanding a business.
It is open to all levels of businesses, with participants separated into three levels, depending on the businesses’ maturity level. Each level is taught a minimum of one module every two weeks, totalling up to a minimum of five modules.
The modules are categorised into General Curriculum and Special Topics. The General Curriculum modules aim to nurture the skill development of SMEs in starting, running and expanding a business depending on the SMEs’ IBA Level, while Special Topic modules carry the aim of imparting new information and knowledge to SMEs by bringing in industry experts in different fields to identify and recognise opportunities available in upcoming projects, value chain opportunities and regulation and policies.
DARe also runs the Startup BootCamp programme at iCentre to incubate start-ups as well as accelerate growth of new existing businesses that wish to reinvent themselves. For 100 days over 15 weeks, around 50 participants go through an intensive ideation as well as execution whereby investors,established entrepreneurs and mentors work with the start-ups to help them grow in both Brunei and overseas.
The group will work throughout the 100 days with an official checkpoint every Tuesday night – to ensure that the companies are making progress every week.
At the end of 100 days, a demo-day is held where selected start-ups will pitch their plans to investors from within Brunei and overseas. Successful companies can have options to move into iCentre to continue their journey of incubation.
Three runs of the BootCamp will be organised every year with local and regional trainers and mentors. In the long-run, DARe hopes that this Startup BootCamp can attract the best and brightest entrepreneurs from Borneo and around the region to consider using Brunei as a business start up point to reach out to the Asean and global markets.
This scheme is supported by Bank Islam Brunei Darussalam (BIBD) with a maximum facility amount of B$15,000 and a repayment period of up to 36 months but without collateral requirements. DARe and BIBD jointly assess the viability and sustainability of an applicant’s business plan and provide recommendations to the SME Financing Committee. Upon approval from this committee, the successful applicant must go through relevant Industry Business Academy (IBA) modules, including training on Cendana, a cloud-based business management suit developed by BAG Networks, which is a modular and integrated management suite to streamline business activities and processes for SMEs. This is to ensure that the company is capable of generating comprehensive progress reports, including their financials for monitoring purposes.
Alternatively, the company has to show commitment in adopting a similar system to manage records of business activities. Successful applicants may be provided with subsidised office or co-working space at iCentre and be potentially enrolled in DARe’s Startup BootCamp.
DARe will continue to work with unsuccessful applicants to improve their business plans through IBA and encourage them to re-submit their applications.
Also under DARe are the iCentre and Knowledge Hub (KHub). The iCentre is a start-up incubation programme and a co-working space for entrepreneurs with access to capacity building programmes and the start-up ecosystem. The iCentre works closely with local and regional collaborators to develop and conduct workshops in the areas of ideation, market validation and fund raising. Programmes and activities under the iCentre include the Industry Business Academy, the Startup BootCamp programme, sharing and networking
Participant at a DARe dialogue Industry panellists sessions as well as creative events and showcases on art, film and music.
The KHub is a platform for the development of the creative and multimedia industry through programmes and activities that are run in partnership with companies such as Microsoft and Sesame World Technology. Programmes and activities under the KHub include the Brunei Solutions Development Centre (BSDC), which is a collaboration between the E-Government National Centre and Microsoft to develop Microsoft-certified software developers, as well as CRAFT, which is a creative arts facility where infrastructure, hardware and software are provided to conduct classes in courses pertaining to 3D architectural visualisation, 2D/3D animation, 2D/3D gaming development as well as sketching and storyboarding.
Market Access is another platform through which DARe works to provide opportunities for local enterprises to connect to the overseas market. The objective is to introduce, grow and create business opportunities for local businesses through inviting delegations or through overseas expos and trade fairs.
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